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The January Man -- Dave Goulder

Guest poem sent in by Andy Webb
(Poem #648) The January Man
 The January man he walks the road
 In woollen coat and boots of leather
 The February man still shakes the snow
 From off his hair and blows his hands
 The man of March he sees the Spring and
 Wonders what the year will bring
 And hopes for better weather

 Through April rains the man comes down
 To watch the birds come in to share the summer
 The man of May stands very still
 Watching the children dance away the day
 In June the man inside the man is young
 And wants to lend a hand
 And grins at each new color

 And in July the man in cotton shirt
 He sits and thinks on being idle
 The August man in thousands take the road
 To watch the sea and find the sun
 September man is standing near
 To saddle up another year
 And Autumn is his bridle

 The man of new October takes the reins
 And early frost is on his shoulder
 The poor November man sees fire and rain
 And snow and mist and wintery gale
 December man looks through the snow
 To let eleven brothers know
 They're all a little older

 And the January man comes round again
 In woollen coat and boots of leather
 To take another turn and walk along
 the icy road he knows so well
 For the January man is here for
 Starting each and every year
 Along the road for ever
-- Dave Goulder
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is a good carol, and since you mention
carols which do not rely upon the tune, I thought I'd send you the
following. This is the best version (indeed, the only version) I could
find on-line, it being as accurate as any that I could transcribe from
memory).

This is a tradional west country carol for the time of year. I had the
pleasure of hearing it sung (unaccompanied), by Hearts of Oak in an old
church in a Devon Village only two weeks ago.

Andy

[Martin adds]

Lovely poem, though I wouldn't have guessed it was a Christmas carol. I
suspect it wasn't really written as one, but rather adopted into the
Christmas tradition later. Andy's right; it does stand up on its own
very well, though I didn't appreciate how well the delayed rhyme worked
until I heard it sung.

Notes and Links:

- There's an mp3 at
  http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/8/william_pint_amp_felicia_dale.html
  Recommended - this is a *beautiful* song. Many thanks to Andy for
  introducing me to it.

- http://mysongbook.de/msb/songs/j/januarym.html has a bit about the song

- THE JANUARY MAN

  Written by Dave Goulder, a one time foot plate man in the good old
  days of steam trains, who was also a keen walker and climber. He left
  his hometown of Nottingham to run a climbing centre in the Torridon
  Hills in Scotland and it was there, he says, that he saw for the first
  time through his townie eyes the year passing month by month through
  the seasons. Dave now runs courses in dry-stone walling but is still
  singing and writing songs. This I believe is one of the most perfect
  songs ever written.

        -- [broken link] http://www.mikeharding.co.uk/music/bomber.htm#jan

- There are several variants floating around; Andy's matches the mp3 I
  pointed to; however there are some details I think have been altered
  from the original, particularly the end of the June verse (where 'new
  colour' seems to have replaced 'newcomer', though it is the latter
  that rhymes). For the sake of completeness, here's the other set of
  lyrics:

  The January man he walks abroad in woollen coat and boots of leather
  The February man still wipes the snow from off his hair and blows his hands
  The man of March he sees the spring and wonders what the year will bring
  And hopes for better weather

  Through April rain the man goes down to watch the birds come in to share
    the summer
  The man of May stands very still watching the children dance away the day
  In June the man inside the man is young and wants to lend a hand
  And grins at each newcomer

  And in July the man in cotton shirt he sits and thinks on being idle
  The August man in thousands take the road and watch the sea and find the sun
  September man is standing near to saddle up and leave the year
  And autumn is his bridle

  And the man of new October takes the reins and early frost is on his shoulder
  The poor November man sees fire and wind and mist and rain and winter air
  December man looks through the snow to let eleven brothers know
  They're all a little older

  And the January man comes round again in woollen coat and boots of leather
  To take another turn and walk along the icy road he knows so well
  The January man is here for starting off each and every year
  Along the way forever

        -- Dave Goulder

- Here's a brief biography of Goulder:
   http://www.fyldefolk.freeserve.co.uk/fyldefolk/d.html

- And look out for tomorrow's Irresistible Followup.

-martin

20 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Lizzie Love said...

Before Glen Torridon Dave was warden of the SYHA hostel at Achnashellach.
January Man was written in the winter of 1965/66 and I first heard it in
February 1966 when Dave was living at *The Sheiling* in Lochcarron. I agree
entirely that it is perfect.

Liz Dyer ... (who was Mrs Goulder 1969 to 1981)

Judge said...

I just wanted to say what fond memories i have of this song as my mum sang it to me and my two brothers throughout our childhood and although she sang many folk tunes this was always an all time favourite.
Also i have found it useful as i wanted a copy of the lyrics as i plan to work on an illustrated version of the song with an illustration for each month. Isn't the internet a wonderful resource.
Fran Judge

Robin Beech said...

The version of the January Man I learned after hearing Dave Goulder
sing it at Nottingham University in the early eighties has a slightly
different last verse:

And the January Man comes round again in woolen coat and boots of
leather,
To take another turn along the icy road he knows so well.
Oh the January Man is here, to welcome each and every year,
Along the road forever.

Not too different but the third lines seems to flow more naturally.

Robin

Ev Miller said...

Liz Dyer?
Of Loch Torridon Hostel? Some fine and difficult years I spent around there as an expatriot American. Reply if it suits you.
Ev Miller

Lizzie Love said...

Ev!! ... Wow!!

Yes ... it's me. When did you post that message on the Jan Man page? I only just found it.

Where are you? Would love to hear from you.

love and hugs ... Lizzie

janusz said...

I heard this song in polish radio, it's quite good to me, although after I red the lyrics I
was disappointed January Man was not Jesus.

grant coghill said...

New website

www.davegoulder.co.uk

Colinscat said...

Hi Ev,
I used to hang around the hostel at Torridon in the late 60's & early 70's,
and can remember taking part in a crazy game of Frizbee (first time I'd seen
this played) on the very steep slope of the drying area at the rear of Glen
Cottage. It was also there that I met a few very unconventional folk who
behaved like Hippies, long straggly hair & weird clothes; smoked lots of hash &
sang wonderful folk songs. Sitting here in front of this PC I can almost
transport myself back to that time. The only people that I remember names from are:
Dave Goulder, Liz Dyer & John Churcher, I suppose if I stretch my mind
further; there was an expatriate American who lived at Torridon while studiying at
Edi Uni & moved back & forth every month or so, which I could not understand
although I do know now how it's done.
Will I get a reply from you?
Regards,
Colin

Bob said...

This is my all time favourite.. The January Man.. Which I have performed for the best part of 27 yrs and I still go back to it when on a glum day of thought to revitalise the zest for living.. It can and does transport me back to my 1950's childhood.. Enjoying every moment that life brought.. Sorry Dave! The song was driven into my life by Mike Harding and I do admit that it is this version that I dedicate to my singing carreer, in and around The Sheffield Area Folk scene. Thanks dave for a very very loved song by the many that listen and perform... And of Course Mike Harding for the parralel life style that I also lived and understood...
Bob Green

lizzie said...

Colin! The ex-pat American was Lurking George. First American to start a
cricket team in a Scottish university. Went on to be a psychiatric nurse at
Carstairs I believe. Dave became a professional dry-stone waller, and after
our divorce, Dave married a schoolteacher and I married a police officer.
Life is full of surprises. If anyone was smoking hash it wasn't where Dave
and I could see them. We could not risk being closed down. We had to have
police vetting for the mountain rescue drugs . and keep our noses clean. We
had a lot of fun though, and met many wonderful people. . Liz

David said...

I've just come across this song for the first time via a nice version on the Lau vs. Karine Polwart "Evergreen" EP. Really interesting to hear about its provenance and get the lyrics. Now to learn it...

Colin Campbell said...

Hello All,
This is my first post since that last one in March 2005. For some reason is, that I just could not find it again

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Michael said...

Random search yielded link to this site; immediate recognition of names John Churcher, Liz Dyer, Dave Goulding. Was wandering about late 1969 early 1970 and spent x number of snowbound days at Glen Cottage in Lochcarron. Hogmaney! Time spent there left a great and quiet impression. Drove up until car engine seized with John C's roomate from University College Oxford, then trains and hitchhiking. Revisited Torridon with my wife in the summer of '87. Wanted to retrace those steps! I have a few black and white photos of the cottage and some people there from back in the day. If desired can scan and send. What a world! Michael in USA, marcus.m@comcast.net

Michael said...

Random search yielded link to this site; immediate recognition of names John Churcher, Liz Dyer, Dave Goulding. Was wandering about late 1969 early 1970 and spent x number of snowbound days at Glen Cottage in Lochcarron. Hogmaney! Time spent there left a great and quiet impression. Drove up until car engine seized with John C's roomate from University College Oxford, then trains and hitchhiking. Revisited Torridon with my wife in the summer of '87. Wanted to retrace those steps! I have a few black and white photos of the cottage and some people there from back in the day. If desired can scan and send. What a world! Michael in USA, marcus.m@comcast.net

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